Continued from Yes Virginia- It’s Time For Your Lawn! part 2
The earliest active growing season, i.e. fall, is the ideal time to cultivate and rejuvenate your cool season lawn. The primary endeavor in lawn care is reseeding and restoration. These preparation steps- core aeration and vertical mowing, are two methods that can provide long-term benefits and insure your reseeding efforts and investment are fruitful. For lawn geeks and those not so geeky, these practices will produce healthy turf development. Follow these steps as applicable for your lawn and soil conditions:
Vertical mowing as it’s sometimes called, or dethatching, is a practice that’s only needed if there is a thatch layer present on the ground surface greater than 1/2″ deep. What is “thatch” you ask? The definition from http://dictionary.reference.com/ – “a tightly bound layer of dead grass, including leaves, stems, and roots, that builds up on the soil surface at the base of the living grass of a lawn.” Fortunately, it rarely develops problematically in cool season lawns. When it is present however, it’s removal will allow needed rain, air, and nutrients to penetrate the ground surface and feed the turf roots. The job can be accomplished by manual raking if you have a small lawn. A rented dethatcher or lawn mower attachment is also a possibility. Either way, raking up the debris is the last task in dethatching. The removed material is great for your compost pile, or can be used as a first layer under mulch. The dethatching process however, does not relieve soil compaction… on to step 2-
As with too much thatch, soil compaction physically restricts root growth and reduces soil oxygen levels required for root development. As with too much thatch, compaction also restricts nutrients and rain from perking into the ground. The point of lawn aeration, pun intended, is for the aerator tines to penetrate the ground as they roll along the lawn removing soil plugs, or cores, and opening up the surface. Core aeration can be a DIY project, but is potentially a big job, as is dethatching. Done well, it typically involves renting a walk-behind aerator or using an attachment to a riding lawn mower. It is not a job for everyone as the equipment is heavy and loud. Typically 1-6 inches in depth and 2-6 inches apart, aeration holes are the cores they leave behind are visible on the ground for awhile, but eventually are reabsorbed. Leave the plugs in place as they contain micro organisms that are important for healthy soil.
Tips for aeration:
Next- Seeding, fertilizing, watering, waiting, haha!